IT COULD be 'Sav' against Max on Sunday.
On the eve of Geelong's clash with Melbourne at the MCG, coach Chris Scott has backed youngster Esava Ratugolea's potential as the side's primary ruckman as the Cats prepare for a period without injured first-choice big man Rhys Stanley.
Geelong lost Stanley to a ligament strain in his knee during its disappointing loss to Carlton last Saturday night, with Ratugolea now firming as a likely option to be pitted against star three-time All-Australian Max Gawn this weekend.
Ratugolea rucked admirably in the dying stages of Saturday night's clash with the Blues, with Scott also weighing up a potential recall for Darcy Fort or a change of role for athletic defender Mark Blicavs.
However, with the club hopeful that the 21-year-old Ratugolea will one day develop into a starting ruckman at Kardinia Park, Scott is considering the prospect of an acid test against Gawn this weekend.
"We've always thought that Esava would grow into – or at least have the option up his sleeve – of just being a ruckman … (but) he'd never just be a ruckman, because he's a competent forward," Scott said.
"But he's a developing player in every sense of the word and he's really trying to develop in two positions that are hard to play.
"If we chose at some stage to play Esava as our No.1 ruckman, we'd go in with confidence."
Geelong is set to regain impressive midfielder Brandan Parfitt from a hamstring injury for Sunday's clash with Melbourne, while Luke Dahlhaus (concussion) and Sam Menegola (back) are also on track in their recoveries and look set to retain their places in the side.
However, the Cats fear the prospect of losing Stanley for multiple matches as a result of his injury setback on Saturday night.
"He's unavailable this week with that ligament strain in his knee," Scott said.
"I'm still hopeful that it's not going to be too serious, but the likely outcome is that it will be weeks. Maybe on the really optimistic end, it is just this week – and it certainly is this week – but after that we're not so sure.
"At the other end of the spectrum, we're very, very confident it's not a long-term thing. But where that fits in the middle, we're not exactly sure."